In November last year the CAR team embarked on the ultimate road trip to find the most capable performance car on the market at the time.
A car capable of comfortably covering long distances, negotiating urban congestion, seeing off the most challenging of mountain passes and then, finally, carving up a racetrack.
The lineup of nine contenders was a fairly complete one, including most of the big names in the performance game – with only a couple of notable absentees.
The Porsche Boxster S that came along for the ride may not have been the most glamorous of the big name badges in the convoy but, fighting above its weight division, managed to provide more than a few upsets during the three-day event.
Of course, Porsche has a car in its line-up that would perhaps have been even more suited to this kind of road trip and the latest version unfortunately (perhaps fortunately for some of the other contenders) arrived with us just too late for inclusion.
The Porsche 911 GT3 is a car born on the track but honed for the road. With every evolution that has been released to date, this model develops even better everyday road compliance to complement its continual dominance of sportscar racing around the world.
In keeping with Porsche’s sometimes criticised design philosophy of gentle evolution rather than complete redesign, the latest GT3 looks similar to the model that it replaces, though there are enough subtle changes to make this model instantly recognisable to those in the know.
Daytime LED driving lights are an obvious update, but the revised – lower and wider – front spoiler, enlarged air dams and modified nose-mounted air outlet have specific functions in the overall package.
With a stunningly crafted new rear wing, the car generates more than double the downforce of the previous model. Also race proven, the new lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels feature eye-catching centre-locking hubs.
Weight savings are obviously among the primary objectives in this environment and, to this end, the latest double-clutch PDK transmission was not considered for the GT3.
Racers, and, in-turn, owners, are spared the additional 30 kilograms that this technology would add to the already laden rear-end and instead, are left free to play with a heavily-weighted clutch pedal and six mechanically precise, DIY forward speeds.
Seated low and very snug in optional lightweight racing bucket seats, and with clutch pedal depressed, first gear engaged, both traction and stability controls switched out (a two stage exercise), and with the centrally-mounted rev counter needle hovering around the 3 000 r/min mark, there are no launch control or all-wheel drive systems on hand to assist in achieving the optimal take off.
We achieved a best 0-100 km/h sprint time of 4,38 seconds on our test day and went on to complete the standing kilometre in 22,14 seconds.
The previous-generation GT3 (tested in February 2007 issue) achieved a 4,6-seconds 0-100 km/h run, and 22,61-seconds kilometre sprint.
The catalyst for this improved performance is the 320 kW of power and 430 N.m of torque on offer from the revised flat-six engine. Up from 3 600 cm3 in the previous model to 3 797 cm3, this engine now features infinite adjustment of the VarioCam valve timing not only on the inlet, but also on the exhaust camshafts.
Our test unit featured optional cross-drilled, inner-ventilated ceramic disc brakes all-round and, once again, their performance was nothing short of exceptional. Our best stop of 10 was an eyeball straining 2,43 seconds.
This is a race-ready car and, as such, the ride is firm, yet not bone-jarringly so. For track work and ultra-smooth new road surfaces an even firmer setting is available at the switch of a facia-mounted button.
High performance rubber (235/35 ZR up front and 305/30 ZR at the rear) combine with the revised bodywork to make the new GT3 one of the most stable cornering machines on the road. Grip levels are huge and, together with the ultra-communicative steering, allow for precise turn-in and high cornering speeds.
Keep the rev needle in its optimal range and the GT3 rewards with huge thrust on the exits. A change-up indicator flashes on the rev counter just before the ear-churning 8 500 limit is reached.
A Sport mode stiffens damper settings and increases steering precision but also monitors road surface conditions and can automatically switch to a more forgiving setting for improved grip.
So, where would the latest Porsche GT3 have slotted into the final mix of the January issue performance shootout? On the open road, the ride is firm but compliant and settles down nicely.
In and around town a handy nose-lift function allows the front-end to be raised to negotiate speed bumps and driveways, and the flexibility of third gear, for example on mountain passes allows for minimal gear changes and maximum concentration on best utilising the huge grip levels on offer. And on the track, well, that is where the GT3 is at home.
Had it been finished in a more subtle colour than our test unit’s, the Porsche would probably not have been noticed in the convoy to the same extent as the arguably more glamorous Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Audi R8 were, but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. The V12 Vantage is probably the closest rival to the GT3 in terms of being a pure racer for the road.
Both have “old fashioned” manual transmissions and once each car’s traction control systems are switched out, drivers are left solely in charge of their own destinies. The all-wheel drive Audi R8 and Nissan GT-R are closest in price to the GT3 and Nissan has made no bones about the fact that it had Porsche in its sights when planning the mega GT-R.
The technoloaded creation may still have beaten this German rival around Aldo Scribante but, when we report that the GT-R is missing an element of driver involvement and purity, it is cars like the GT3 that we are comparing it with.
The 911 Turbo, and even the GT2, will be better in terms of everyday comfort and practicality, but for those who seek the purest form of motoring involvement and driver communication, the GT3, with its ever improving on-road manners, cannot be beaten.